Since our beloved adversaries do not indulge in the innovations of their nuclear arsenal, we are satisfied with the products of the previous era - W-80. Photo: flickr.com Kelly Michals
More recently, the United States announced that they could soon abandon the moratorium on nuclear testing, announced back in 1992, and conduct new underground tests at the Nevada training ground. This statement raised concern on the fate of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. weaponswhich is already falling apart under the onslaught of new nuclear countries. However, besides this, a purely technical question arises: what exactly are the US going to experience?
Any nuclear tests have a political and technical side. The political side of the trials usually pursued the goal of demonstrating determination and demonstrating that a certain type of nuclear weapon was available and operational. The technical side of the tests was to verify the new design of nuclear munitions in order to make sure that the product really has the required characteristics and provides the necessary energy release. So, if the Americans were going to test, then we can deduce from here that they have something new.
The modernization program for the American nuclear missile arsenal has already begun and, judging by the press reports (containing a certain amount of misinformation) has already gained momentum. This is, at least, a new type of missile - the winged Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO), as well as three types of warheads. Two of them, W-76-2 and W-80-4 are the product of modernization of existing types, for ballistic and cruise missiles, respectively, and W-93 is a new model designed to replace warheads of the type W-76-1 and W -88.
W-88 on tests at Sandia National Laboratories in 2018
W-76-2 - a low-power warhead, its energy release, according to the Federation of American Scientists, is estimated at 5 ct. According to reports, it has already entered service, and the submarine USS Tenessee (SSBN-734) went to sea at the end of 2019 to patrol with one or two of the 20 missiles on board equipped with these warheads. According to the same federation, which may be a planned leak of information, the first such ammunition was manufactured in February 2019, and by the beginning of 2020 there were about 50 of them.
W-80-4 is an extension of the life and partial modernization of the W-80-1 warheads, which are equipped with AGM-86B air-launched cruise missiles. Now these missiles constitute the backbone of the American air-based nuclear arsenal. Their reserve is decent: 1715 missiles, for which 1750 warheads were made. True, the missiles are already running out of life, as well as their carriers B-52H. The new LRSO cruise missile is being created immediately for many carriers, in particular, for the B-2 and for the new B-21 bomber, and it should solve the main problems of updating this part of the US nuclear arsenal. Judging by the available data, it is planned to produce 500 W-80-4 warheads.
Little is known about W-93, although much has been written about it in early 2020. Most likely, it is intended to equip a Trident II (D-5) ballistic missile, which was once again tested in September 2019. In the late 2030s, this warhead will have to replace the warheads of the previous types. They should also develop the Mk-7 RV platform, which should have an increased ability to break through the enemy’s missile defense. But so far almost nothing is known about her, at least in the open press.
Submariners must also fight!
An interesting question: why did the Americans need to equip nuclear submarines - carriers of strategic nuclear weapons - with a missile, which was essentially equipped with tactical nuclear weapons? What is the point of such a replacement? American and not only American experts in the field of nuclear weapons talk about a new strategy for responding to a nuclear attack with tactical charges without delivering a full-fledged retaliatory or retaliatory nuclear strike. In any case, the National Nuclear Security Administration puts it this way. They say that Russians can threaten us with low-power nuclear strikes in the expectation that the Americans are afraid to respond, and we need means of response to this threat, comparable in scale, so that the exchange of tactical nuclear strikes does not develop into a large-scale massacre.
Judging by the experience of the blessed times of the Cold War, such discussions about the strategy served as a means of disguising real intentions to use nuclear weapons and to some extent the enemy’s misinformation.
However, in my opinion, the real goals of such a replacement for warheads are somewhat different. The fact is that while the US Air Force and the surface fleet were exhausted in the fight against all kinds of bearded men in the Middle East, bringing down cruise missiles and guided bombs on them, American submariners evaded this honorable duty. They ate a fair amount of state treasury, plowed the underwater expanses of the oceans, in essence, doing nothing useful for the current American military tasks. I think that the command of the underwater fleet The United States more than once came up with demands to embed, but the underwater admirals answered something like this: we don’t mind embedding, but you are sure that a 455-kiloton warhead strike on some bunker or other target in the same Syria is what the world’s is the community waiting for you? So, after all, you can inadvertently wipe the whole city off the face of the earth.
In addition, in a number of countries hostile to the United States, in the same Syria or Iran, quite decent anti-missile defense systems appeared, which seriously reduce the effectiveness of cruise missile attacks.
The appearance of a tactical warhead in the arsenal of the American submarine fleet is precisely the solution to this problem. Submarines can now, if necessary, deliver a sudden and almost irresistible blow to an important target in a regional conflict. 5 kt is not much, a nuclear explosion will be with a small radius of destruction, about 150-200 meters. This eliminates or makes it unlikely that unnecessary casualties could come under nuclear attack at the same time for military purposes, if powerful warheads are used. Such a tactical warhead is most suitable for hitting an airfield, command center, or the position of missile defense or ballistic missiles.
In a regional conflict, such as, for example, the war with Iran, fifty tactical nuclear warheads are in a position to either break or weaken very much the missile defense system and AviationThat will ease the load on aviation and make its strikes much more effective. As for Russia and China, the radars they have available make it possible to determine the trajectory and find out that these missiles do not pose a threat to them even if there is no prior warning (a warning about this strike may well be).
Will the new generation of designers be able to "go crazy"?
Judging by the fact that the W-76-2 warhead was immediately put on missiles and loaded onto a boat, the American command has no doubts about its operability. What then can they experience?
I think that they need to test the new W-93 warhead, which can significantly differ from previous types in its design and electronics. This is where the problem arises, already noted by some experts. The old generation of designers and engineers, in whose ability to "clog" there was no doubt, has already virtually disappeared; the youngest employees working in the nuclear test era are already retired. The ammunition created by them, of course, will explode if you dust off the sacred tablets of the Cold War era and do as it is written there. But whether the current generation will be able to do something that can flop out is a big question. If not, then the problem arises that in 15-20 years the United States may be left without a working nuclear weapon at all and the consequences will be catastrophic. Some DPRK could threaten them with impunity.
Then, in the United States, a drift from powerful charges to low-power (tactical) charges is clearly observed, which should be equipped with high-precision maneuvering warheads of not only ballistic missiles, but also hypersonic missiles, as well as anti-missile defense systems. The more accurate and more intelligent a warhead, for example, capable of not only maneuvering, but also target selection on approach, and automatically adjust the detonation power depending on the location of the targets, the more compact the charge itself should be. For example, if the enemy’s ships are in a heap, it’s better to have a more powerful explosion, and if the order is dispersed, then you need to hit accurately, but weaker. Say, for a Chinese aircraft carrier, a direct hit of a 5 kt warhead means guaranteed drowning. For a warhead, the weight and size characteristics of which are very tightly limited, the placement of additional electronics and devices means a reduction in the size and weight of the nuclear charge itself. Therefore, the requirements for the design of such compact charges are increasing and the question arises about their performance.
Therefore, despite the reassuring assurances that nuclear tests are not planned and they are not needed, I think that they are still planned and in the foreseeable future are likely to take place.